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23 August 2016 @ 12:43 pm
The Initiative, or Spike Shows Some (initiative, I mean, get your brain out of the gutter)  
Firstly, many apologies for the delay to this post. Hopefully, we're back on schedule now.

Because being on time is very important when you're in the military...

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...which it turns out Riley and his two friends Forrest and Graham are,

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along with their mentor, Maggie Walsh (whose nickname of Evil Bitch Monster of Death suddenly strikes me as very ironic, given what's going to happen around mid-season).

I don't know, Riley. I'm disappointed in you. I liked you better when you were just a nice (if exceptionally tall) TA, with sweetly old-fashioned ideas about girls.

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You were utterly cute when you appeared oblivious to Forrest's 'guy talk' about girls in the cafeteria,

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in which Forrest showed...

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...that either he has a big Thing for blondes,

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or that he's well aware how Riley feels about this particular blonde...

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...and is trying to get a rise out of him.

Personally, I think it's more likely the latter, given that Forrest goes out of his way to accost a certain Parker Abrams...

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(Booh!)

...and ask him for the lowdown (the very lowdown) on Buffy,

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which results in some (not at all) shocking violence...

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...and Riley's realisation that he really, really likes Buffy.

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So whatever you may think of Riley, you can't accuse him of having bad taste.

It's not just a day of revelations for Riley either.

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Spike wakes up and finds he's transparent.

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Well, maybe not. He is somewhere very unpleasant, though.

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So unpleasant that for the first time ever in the show, he actually looks scared.

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Fortunately for Spike, he finds an ally in the vamp in the next cell. They have a long conversation (which is weirdly unmonitored by any military types), during which Spike is warned not to drink the tainted blood on offer (again, it's weirdly unmonitored whether he in fact drinks it or not),

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in case he gets carted off to be experimented on (and if anyone's Evil Nazi-like Scientist alarm bell isn't already ringing at this point, there's something wrong with them, IMO).

Spike takes heed of the warning, and when the evil Nazi-like scientists come for him...

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...he stages a Steve McQueen in The Great Escape-esque escape (minus motorbike).

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Mind you, given what we later learn has happened to him (as in, sometimes they experiment on you before you even get the chance to drink the tainted blood), I don't know how he's able to do this.

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Or this.

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I'd thought Joss and co must have decided to skate over this point so as not to spoil the surprise later on, but when you read the shooting script it's fairly clear that Spike's attempts to hit people coincide with them hitting him, so he (and the audience) wouldn't necessarily make the connection between him hitting people and yelling in pain. However, it's really not so clear when you watch it

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Anyway, Spike escapes,

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though Next Cell Vamp is probably for the (literal) chop, I'm afraid. No thanks to Spike.

His first port of call is Harmony's lair,

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which she's in the process of tastefully redecorating.

Spike wheedles his way around her quite successfully at first,

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but it soon becomes apparent, even to poor Harmony, that he's only there for the battleaxes.

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Never mind, though, because this leads to one of the best fight scenes in the entire show.

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The Harmony/Xander hair-pulling contest.

This is really Xander's only contribution to the episode, apart from interrupting Riley on the point of asking Buffy out...

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...after Riley has failed miserably at it all evening, and been (sort of) commiserated with by his reluctant ally, a miserable Oz-less Willow.

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I think Willow and Riley's scenes are great, actually. They're sweet together. Aww!

However, it's not Willow Riley is interested in, but Buffy. So far, their meetings haven't worked out so well, and this one...

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...is no exception.

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Or this one.

And I've just realised, in both cases, it's their duty, in the form of Spike, who's come between them. Hmm, sensing a pattern here.

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Still, they do manage to connect in the end, even if it's still without having a clue who each other really is, and thinking each other 'peculiar' (which, is that a word Buffy would ever actually use, do you think, because I'm not convinced?)

Spike, on the other hand, after showing he knows how to use a computer,

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fails to make his desired connection with Willow,

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in a scene that begins like a horrific rape scene (it's the last time Spike is truly scary),

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then devolves into ridiculous farce,

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and ends with Spike assuring Willow that she's not to blame for his underwhelming performance and that he finds her extremely biteable (while mispronouncing 'lilac', but we'll let that go with gritted teeth).

James and Alyson are brilliant in this scene, turning horror into dark comedy effortlessly. They have great chemistry too. In fact, you can almost see Joss and co pushing various new relationships at Willow in this episode, like so,

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and so,

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(love the way the two scenes parallel each other, with Riley/Spike sitting on Willow's bed)

then thinking...nah!

So, Buffy saves Willow (and Spike, inadvertently) from being carted off back to Evil Nazi-like Scientist Land the Initiative, Spike escapes to be annoying another day (hoorah!), and all our illusions about Riley's nice, normalness are shattered (booh!).

Oh, and Giles has even less to do than Xander.

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He looks very nice while not doing it, though.

Some great scenes in this episode, not least Buffy confronting Maggie Walsh over her cruelty to Willow, and the aforementioned Spike/Willow scene of two halves.

Also, the plot gets advanced. A lot.

Best lines:

Spike and Willow get to share them here.

TOM: I'm a rat. I'm a lab rat - like the others
(scared whisper)
They're gonna kill us, you know.
SPIKE: And how are "they" going to do that?
TOM: They starve you. And when you're ready to bite
your own arm, they shoot out one of those packets.
You drink, and the next thing you know - you're
gone. That's when they do the experiments.
SPIKE: And "they" are .... the government? Nazis?
A major cosmetics company?

SPIKE: (re Buffy's possible involvement with the Initiative)
I always worried what would happen if the bitch got some funding.

RILEY: (to Willow, re Buffy) So, what do I do?
WILLOW: You ask her to dance.
RILEY: Right. Dance. Wait. No.
WILLOW: What's wrong?
RILEY: I can't dance.
WILLOW: Then talk. Keep eye contact, funny is good, but
don't be glib and remember: if you hurt her, I
will beat you to death with a shovel.
(Riley looks at Willow likes she's nuts. She smiles.)
WILLOW: A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun!

Riley : I can't believe it. I choked.
Willow : You really, really did.
Riley : You don't understand. I'm good at things. That's what I do. Work hard, apply myself, get it done.
Willow : Well, you failed extremely well.

Willow : It's me, isn't it?
Spike : What are you talking about?
Willow : Well, you came looking for Buffy, then settled. I--I... You didn't want to bite me. I just happened to be around.
Spike : Piffle!
Willow : I know I'm not the kind of girl vamps like to sink their teeth into. It's always like, "ooh, you're like a sister to me," or, "oh, you're such a good friend."
Spike : Don't be ridiculous. I'd bite you in a heartbeat.

Thoughts, anyone?
 
 
 
manoah: seasonal spuffymanoah on August 23rd, 2016 02:11 pm (UTC)
I don't comment much, but know that I enjoy these immensely!!!

This episode brings to mind the Spike and Willow relationship that rahirah created in her Necessary Evil world. ;)

And Bailey Chase looks so young! (they all do)

Well done!
Shapinglight: Hostile 17shapinglight on August 23rd, 2016 07:08 pm (UTC)
I don't comment much, but know that I enjoy these immensely!!!

That's good. :)

The posts are fun to do, if a little time-consuming due to looking out the right screencaps.

And Bailey Chase looks so young! (they all do)

They really have. I saw Bailey Chase recently in an episode of Lucifer and he looks sooo much older.
manoahmanoah on August 23rd, 2016 08:19 pm (UTC)
Bailey Chase was also on Longmire and Grimm. I think it's fun to see these actors and say, Hey! Where do I know him/her from. It's always Buffy or Angel!
Shapinglight: Hostile 17shapinglight on August 30th, 2016 04:59 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. There was that bloke in Game of Thrones who also played Eddie, the boy who got vamped in The Freshman. That really nails home how many years have passed because his character in GoT is a mature man with grown up children.
gillogillo on August 23rd, 2016 11:10 pm (UTC)
I am so sad that I saw his name in the opening credits and immediately knew where I knew him from, though it took a little longer to recognise him.
Double Dutchess: Spike in the Initiativedouble_dutchess on August 23rd, 2016 09:41 pm (UTC)
when you read the shooting script it's fairly clear that Spike's attempts to hit people coincide with them hitting him, so he (and the audience) wouldn't necessarily make the connection between him hitting people and yelling in pain.

Oh, that explanation never occurred to me! But surely Spike would notice a difference between the pain induced by the chip and the minor pain of bbeing hit.

I always assumed that the chip was only activated (by remote control) after Spike had escaped, or that it needed some time to become fully functional through some kind of autocalibration process.
Trepkostrepkos on August 26th, 2016 07:39 am (UTC)
That was exactly my thought - that it needed a few goes to calibrate!
Naomi: Spuffy Wrecked by awmpfrelling_tralk on August 29th, 2016 12:44 pm (UTC)
Very late response, but yeah that's what I assumed too. Being punched has always been shown as not that big a deal for vampires, so I wouldn't have expected that pain to coincide with the pain of the chip. It always seemed like the chip only fired for the first time when Spike attacked Willow, and he was totally unprepared for that level of pain and couldn't even function with it, which wouldn't really fit if it had already been going off at the Initiative and he had fought his way through the pain.
Shapinglight: performance anxietyshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:05 pm (UTC)
I basically agree that it's the only thing that really makes sense, but see my comment below.
Shapinglight: performance anxietyshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, that explanation never occurred to me! But surely Spike would notice a difference between the pain induced by the chip and the minor pain of bbeing hit.

You'd think so, yes. Yet it did seem clear to me that they were trying to write it so he wouldn't realise what had happened to him.

The directions for the relevant bits of the escape scene go as follows:

Spike stands locked in a death-struggle with one technician who holds him by the throat. Spike's howling in pain.

Spike and Tom turn a corner, running right into an ARMED GUARD. Spike smashes his elbow into the guy's masked face at the same time the guard rifle-butts Spike in the side of the head. Spike grabs his head, bellowing in pain.

I'm not sure it's quite so simultaneous when you watch it.
gillo: Just Spikegillo on August 23rd, 2016 11:09 pm (UTC)
Lots of wonderful moments in this, though bang go Buffy's hopes of a normal relationship, even before this one has started. Lot's of action which is totally in character - the various fights speak volumes, as do the bedroom conversations. Spike abandoning his fellow-vampire without a qualm is brilliantly Spike - he's still very, very bad, not at all a nice man. I almost feel sympathy for Harmony. Why do men always leave her?

Also, in view of later events, Walsh's comment about Hostile 17's accomplice seems oddly prescient.

This episode is a lot of fun, beginning a run of outstanding individual episodes. When people complain about the incoherent major arc of this season they tend to forget the actual brilliance of a lot of the episodes. Though in-prison Spike does seem to have one heck of a lot of makeup on, but has time to remove it before he tries to attack Willow. His priorities are so skewed when he's evil.
Dannachasingdemons on August 24th, 2016 02:49 am (UTC)
Though in-prison Spike does seem to have one heck of a lot of makeup on, but has time to remove it before he tries to attack Willow.

Also his roots are really showing when he's in prison, but not at all in the next scene. Apparently he took time to touch up his hair before going to kill Buffy.
Trepkostrepkos on August 26th, 2016 07:40 am (UTC)
Well, who wouldn't?!
Shapinglight: won't cryshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:08 pm (UTC)
I daresay he wanted to look his best. ;)
gillo: Rewatch BtVSgillo on August 30th, 2016 07:52 pm (UTC)
I hadn't noticed that before! Good call. Though it would appear a vampire's hair can grow - look at Lessons or Angel at various stages in his history.
Shapinglight: won't cryshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:07 pm (UTC)
I almost feel sympathy for Harmony. Why do men always leave her?

I feel terribly sorry for Harmony, have to say, but I know exactly why men always leave her. ;)

I think season 4 is absolutely brilliant. I don't think the plot's that incoherent either. It's certainly better than, say, season 7.
gillogillo on August 30th, 2016 07:52 pm (UTC)
Oh I do too. Why would anyone stay with her?
Fenchurch: Blue Green Spikefenchurche on August 24th, 2016 01:03 am (UTC)
I really love this episode... although it's one where I do regret listening to the commentary on the DVD. I thought it was brilliantly written with all the parallels between Spike and Riley, down to echoing each others' dialogue in places... but after listening to 40+ minutes of Doug Petrie gushing about Riley ("Oh, isn't Riley so awesome in this scene?" "I love the way Riley looks here!"), it became fairly obvious that most of what I thought was clever writing was very likely just coincidence.

So, now I just try to pretend I never listened to it and enjoy the episode for what I take from it.
Shapinglight: soldiershapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:10 pm (UTC)
I think you're very wise. For the most part, the episode commentaries don't add anything worth knowing. I stopped listening to them after the one for Hell's Bells in season 6, listening to which was one of the most pointless 40 minutes of my entire existence.

it became fairly obvious that most of what I thought was clever writing was very likely just coincidence.

There is definitely an element of serendipity through the entire run of BtVS. As for Petrie's Riley obsession, much though I like Riley myself, it's cringeworthy.
Dannachasingdemons on August 24th, 2016 03:46 am (UTC)
The chip was an excellent way for Buffy and Spike to move forward antagonizing but not killing each other. Brilliant to turn it into an issue of impotence as Spike continues to be evil and pathetic at the same time.

Every time I've watched this episode, I've wondered how Spike could fight the scientists with the chip in. I haven't read the shooting script, but the "deliberate timing" doesn't really sync up. I figured there was a delay for the chip to kick in. I really don't need every detail to make sense. Although I do have to wonder where Spike learned to use a computer.

Unlike Angel, Riley is attracted to Buffy without knowing she is anything other than a "normal girl". Some would argue that he would not have chosen to have a girlfriend who was so powerful. I don't totally agree with that.

I find Forrest's "guy talk" in the cafeteria offensive. Mattressable? Yuk! On the other hand, I find Spike SO sexy when he is threatening to kill Willow so I guess my standards are rather questionable. But I can't help it. When he talks/smiles with his vamp teeth in...

Xander's fight scene with Harmony: the best.
Riley's scenes with Willow: adorable.

Thanks for the excellent review!!
Shapinglight: buffy rileyshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:51 pm (UTC)
The chip was an excellent way for Buffy and Spike to move forward antagonizing but not killing each other. Brilliant to turn it into an issue of impotence as Spike continues to be evil and pathetic at the same time.

I agree, though I think JM wasn't too happy about it to start with, and you still get old time fans moaning about how they preferred Spike was he was more 'badass.' Of course 'badass' Spike had a very limited shelflife, but I suspect most of the fans who preferred him like that didn't want him joining the main cast anyway.

I haven't read the shooting script, but the "deliberate timing" doesn't really sync up.

I agree it doesn't really work, but the extracts I posted above from the shooting script make it fairly clear (IMO) that they meant it to. It doesn't, though, and the delayed chip symptoms onset theory works best to explain what happens.

I find Forrest's "guy talk" in the cafeteria offensive. Mattressable? Yuk!

It's not very nice, though S assures me it's pretty typical (except that the men he knows would never use a word like 'mattressable.' They'd be an awful lot more crude). :(

I do think Forrest is messing with Riley in that scene. On the other hand, I think that's how Forrest (and Graham to a lesser extent) actually thinks. Riley being so sweet and olf fashioned yet again marks him out from the herd (as it were). In fact, I should have mentioned his use of the word 'courting' when he's discussing asking Buffy out with Willow. It's delightful. Makes me want to pat Riley on the head, or pin a medal on him or something. :)
Butterfly: [BtVS] Willow/Rileysnogged on August 24th, 2016 12:06 pm (UTC)
I adore all the Willow/Riley scenes. I think that they would have been a very cute pair.

This episode is another one that us Willow/Spike fans like to cling to. Though the sexual assault bit is one of my least favorite things, even if it transitions to farce. It's weird how that almost sets things up for S6's "Seeing Red."
Shapinglight: performance anxietyshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:56 pm (UTC)
I adore all the Willow/Riley scenes. I think that they would have been a very cute pair.

They would. Unfortunately, though, in TV terms they might have run the risk of seeming a little...bland, I guess? Spike and Willow would have worked better in some ways. Hard to get past the bottle in face threat in Lovers' Walk and the assault scene in this episode, though.

It's weird how that almost sets things up for S6's "Seeing Red."

I don't actually see the scenes as being that similar. This one is couched far more like a 'realistic' rape scene, if I can put it that way. Nasty, violent, and Spike has every intention of going through with the assault to the end. In Seeing Red, though the scene is also nasty and violent, it comes from quite a different place, and Spike has no desire to actually hurt Buffy (he does, of course, so ultimately it doesn't matter what his intentions were, but even so that wasn't his intention).
Rebcake: btvs_spi_ninjarebcake on August 25th, 2016 07:47 am (UTC)
It really doesn't look like Spike's chip fires during his escape. I've wanked this by reasoning that they remotely activated it after he got out. Which would seem to make it easy to deactivate remotely as well, but nobody wants that to happen.

I don't see any reason why Buffy wouldn't say "peculiar". It's a fine word, if a little old-fashioned. She pulls those out occasionally.

Even the names on the screen shot on the computer are ridiculously monocultural. Sheesh.

There are so many good scenes in this ep! I love S4!
Shapinglight: Hostile 17shapinglight on August 30th, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)
It really doesn't look like Spike's chip fires during his escape. I've wanked this by reasoning that they remotely activated it after he got out. Which would seem to make it easy to deactivate remotely as well, but nobody wants that to happen.

I agree it works better that way, but the stage directions in the shooting script make it clear they intended otherwise. Not that it matters, since their intentions are as clear as mud when you watch it.

I don't see any reason why Buffy wouldn't say "peculiar". It's a fine word, if a little old-fashioned. She pulls those out occasionally.

Really? I was going to ask for more examples, but then I decided it was probably better if I just look out for them as I go along.
Trepkostrepkos on August 26th, 2016 07:46 am (UTC)
I was waiting for this one and somehow managed to miss it! One of my favourite episodes - naturally! And I especially love "the government? Nazis? A major cosmetics company?" and "I always worried what would happen if the bitch got some funding." What IS Giles doing there - I've forgotten ...
Shapinglight: season 4 Gilesshapinglight on August 30th, 2016 06:01 pm (UTC)
What IS Giles doing there - I've forgotten ...

He's drawn a pretty generic 'commando', which he shows to Buffy to see if it's anything like what she saw running around the campus in the previous episode. She says it is.

Giles's sole contribution to the episode, except for a scene where he show Xander he knows how to load a handgun.